Have you ever done something that you knew you really should not do, but you also knew if you didn’t do it, you would always wish you had? Yeah? Me too!
A few years ago, one of my aunts passed away. It was very sudden and sad for so many reasons. One of those reasons was her husband, my dad’s brother.
When I got the call that Aunt Audrey had died and Uncle Louie had been taken to the hospital because of his heart, I got on the first available plane to California. My sisters and I were responsible for Uncle Lou since he and Aunt Audrey had “adopted” us in their will, not to mention, we loved that crazy, old couple. As I flew out the next morning, I wondered how my uncle would ever live without his wife. Eleven days after arriving in California and bringing Louie home to live with my dad, my uncle passed away in his sleep. I remain thankful to this very day for being able to spend those last days with him.
Surely, you can imagine the stress of dealing with two deaths in twelve days, not to mention having to clean out a house full of fifty years of junk. Then there was selling the house and closing accounts, notifying family and friends. It would have been overwhelming at times if my sisters and I had not had one another. Even so, we did get a bit crazy here and there along the way. Case in point:
I had taken care of Aunt Audrey’s cremation but had not picked up her ashes yet. I was too busy taking care of my Uncle Louie, who was obviously not doing well. When he passed away so soon after Aunt Audrey, I ended up having to retrieve two boxes of ashes at once. My sisters would have no part of the ashes thing, so they did all the administrative stuff. Driving back to my dad’s house with my aunt and uncle buckled in the backseat … hey, I did not want to take any chances of a Stephen King type event on the freeway … I started to get irritated. How come my sisters always get to look good, smell good and take care of the easy crap, while I am always wiping butts or driving dead people around? That’s when I began to devise my plan.
My aunt and uncle did not want a funeral. They specifically stated in their wills that they were to be cremated and the ashes sprinkled at sea. I had taken care of the cremations and my sisters had made the arraignments for the sprinkling at sea with the Neptune Society. When I arrived home and found my sisters had gone out … probably for a nail or hair appointment or some other stupid girl thing … I placed my aunt and uncle in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet and went to work.
First, I ran out to the front garden carrying a plastic bowl and big spoon with me. I quickly filled the small bowl half full with the fine, powdery dirt in my parent’s front planter. Next, I ran back into the house and dug through my mother’s junk drawer finding exactly what I was hoping would be there … chalk. I placed the chalk in the bowl with the soil and grabbed a potato masher out of the pottery crock on the counter. As I mashed the chalk into the soil being careful to leave just the right size and shape pieces, I literally began to sweat with anticipation. For a split second, I imagined my mother standing next to me ready to thump me upside my head in the hopes of knocking some sense into me. Luckily for me, my mom had died two years earlier or she would have killed me right then and there.
Once the bowls content was the exact color and consistency of what I imagined people ashes might look like, I grabbed three plain, white envelopes from the desk drawer in the foyer along with a blue, ink pen. Carefully writing each of my sisters names along with my own, one on each envelope, I could only imagine their faces when this was over. I then slowly scooped a few spoonfuls of “ashes” into each envelope, sealed them and placed them in the bottom drawer on top of my aunt and uncle. I laughed out loud, knowing Lou and Aundrey would have loved this! I quickly cleaned up all the evidence and ran upstairs to change and wash up.
No sooner had I come back downstairs, when my sisters walked in the kitchen door. They were happy and chatty as always and had even brought back dinner for all of us. As we sat eating in the kitchen, my older sister asked if I had picked up Uncle Lou and Aunt Audrey. When I said yes, through a mouthful of coleslaw, both their faces dropped.
“Where are they?”
“In the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.”
“Why are they there?”
“Where would you like me to put them?”
“I don’t know but somehow the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet just doesn’t seem right.”
“Ok, I’ll go get them and we can put them anywhere you two would like.”
At that last comment, they both began screaming, “No! Don’t bring them in here! Leave them there!”
That’s when I did it. I went into the dining room, opened the bottom drawer, took out the three envelopes and took them into the kitchen. I placed one in front of each of us and sat back down.
“By the way, the people at the mortuary gave me these. They are for the service on the boat, you know, when we go to sprinkle the ashes.”
As they each reached for their envelope, my oldest sister asked, “What are they?”
“They’re part of the ashes.”
Both my sisters literally threw the envelopes on the table screaming.
“Don’t be ridiculous, you two. It’s not like they had cooties. All we have to do when we go out on the boat is stand at the railing, say something nice, tear open our envelope and pour. Simple.”
My little sister sat staring at me shaking her head. My older sister looked completely horrified and made it clear, that was not going to happen. That’s when I grabbed my envelope, ripped it open and poured some of the “ashes” into my left hand.
“Look! It’s no big deal. It’s not like they’re going to bite you.”
My sisters jumped up and looked at me like I had completely gone mad, yelling, “Have you lost your mind? What are you doing?”
I replied, “Crap, now I have ashes all over me.” I then reached out and wiped my hands on the front of my oldest sister’s sweater. I truly thought I had killed her by the look of terror on her face.
Falling to the ground, unable to breathe from laughing so hard, I believe I heard “Idiot” right before I heard the front door open and then slam shut.